Ford takes wraps off updated F-150

Henry Payne, The Detroit News

How do you celebrate 40 years of Ford F-series dominance with an enviable 820,000 pickups sold in 2016 alone? Roll out a new F-150.

To kick off the Detroit auto show this morning, Ford announced the first update to its ground-breaking, aluminum-body truck since it wowed the auto show as a 2015 model in 2014. With the 2018 pickup, the headlines just keep coming.

The new truck ditches the three-bar grille that has been Ford’s signature design for over a decade, and brings a diesel engine to the light-duty truck lineup (previously offered only in heavy duty) for the first time in its nearly 70-year history. Ford, the official truck of the NFL, will preview the F-150 on the Fox NFL Wildcard Pregame Show at 4 p.m. Sunday, and then unveil it at Ford’s news conference at the North American International Auto Show on Monday morning.

Ford crested the 800,000 sales bar for the first time since 2005, leading truck market sales with the F-150 and its new for 2016 F-250 Super Duty brother. The Ford beat out its biggest competitor — the Chevy Silverado by over 250,000 units sold, and it beat General Motors’ Silverado/GMC Sierra twins by about 24,000.

“It’s the best-selling truck since disco,” said Todd Eckert, Ford truck group marketing manager.

The 2017 Super Duty broke from the F-150 with a fresh, two-bar grille — dubbed “double I-beam” by Ford. Embraced by buyers, the F-250 grille style — with seven variations — is migrating to the F-150 along with a new bumper and headlamps. Changes to the rear fascia include new taillights and the letters “F150” tattooed on the tailgate.

The three-bar retires after a 14-year run that began with the Ford 427 Concept sedan that was rolled out at the 2003 Detroit Auto Show. The 427 inspired a “bolder, more American” design style that first graced the 2006 Ford Fusion sedan and was the echoed throughout the lineup from the Ford Focus compact to the Ford Edge. The F-150 fascia went three-bar in 2009.

“We took the grille and really stretched it to give it more width,” said Gordon Platto, F-series designer. “The Super Duty was liked so well with the double I-beam, we felt an obligation to create harmony between big brother and little brother.”

The 3.0-liter turbo-diesel leads a revamped engine lineup that includes a turbocharged Ecoboost 2.7-liter engine; twin-turbo V-6. 5.0-liter V-8; and a new base-model 3.3-liter V-6. Innovative port and direct fuel-injection systems increase fuel efficiency and durability.

“Direction injection engines have improved fuel efficiency, but the problem is they have come with carbon buildup,” says Dave Sullivan, manager of product analysis for research firm AutoPacific. “Adding port injection will solve that problem and increase engine longevity. Other manufacturers like Toyota are also moving toward this solution.”

To kick off the Detroit auto show Sunday, Ford announced the first update to its ground-breaking, aluminum-body truck since it wowed the auto show as a 2015 model in 2014.

The 2018 F-150 is due in showrooms in the fall 2017, but the diesel version won’t be available until the summer 2018. Built in England by Ford, the diesel will deliver impressive towing ability and is the same oil-burner found in Land Rover’s SUVs.

All engines but the 3.3-liter will be mated to a new 10-speed automatic transmission — co-developed with GM — that was first introduced on the 2017 Ford Raptor muscle pickup. The 3.3-liter V-6 (downsized from the current 3.5-liter) will be married to a 6-speed automatic. The F-150 will come standard with stop-start technology, which turns off the engine at stoplights to save fuel.

The F-150 will be the first light-duty truck to get pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection as well as adaptive cruise control which can come to a complete stop – then accelerate again. The 2018 model will also have an available Wi-Fi hot spot that can accommodate up to 10 devices. The F-150 will come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility.

In addition to the seven new grille choices, the 2018 F-150 will sport six new wheel options (from 17- to-22 inch) and more interior color and material choices. All these options across five model trims – XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum – make for hundreds of potential pick configurations.

“We like to offer our customers as much customization as possible,” says Platto.

While 2018 F-150 pricing won’t be released until later this year, it won’t differ much from the current model which starts at $28,025 for a base XL and tops out at over $64,000 in Platinum trim with all the goodies. The F-150 is built in Dearborn, Louisville, Kentucky, and Kansas City, Missouri.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at or Twitter: @HenryEPayne.